I first met Barbara Reade and her partner Roman at my Sunday morning bootcamp class and she struck me right away as someone who was friendly and warm but also strong and determined (she completed the Tough Mudder in the spring for heaven’s sake!) When I asked for guest bloggers about a month ago, she was the very first person to step up with an offer to write a piece on her painful, frustrating and enlightening journey back from a knee injury. Judging from the crazy number of backwards lunges I saw her do just this past Sunday in class, I’m fairly certain that she has made a full recovery. But I think you’ll agree that there is much to be learned from Barb’s struggles and observations as she healed her body over the summer and eventually made peace with the process.
Thank you so much for this insightful and honest post Barb! Check it out below:
The Upside of Downtime
By: Barbara Reade
Definition of “downtime”, according to the Free Online Dictionary – “The period of time when something, such as a factory or a piece of machinery, is not in operation, especially as the result of a malfunction.”
Every so often, life throws a curve ball in your direction. You can either stealthily duck to avoid it or, if you are less agile and perhaps involved in a sport that involves skillful pivoting in sand while looking skyward for flying balls, you can get hit squarely in the face. Or in the knee, which was sort of my case. In actual fact, I ended up spraining my knee while playing volleyball on the beach with a group of friends who had banded together to form a team for an upcoming fund raiser. The only caveat was that we needed to play beach volleyball convincingly well, so practising was imperative. None of us had so much as picked up a volleyball since our high school days, but we were all keen, overflowing with enthusiasm and ready to have fun. I should mention as well that every single one of us was involved in a number of athletic pursuits already, so we felt that we were ready for the challenge.
My initial reaction to injuring my knee, I’m ashamed to say, was embarrassingly immature. Shortly after the practice that cut short my volleyball career, when it was obvious that I had done something really unpleasant to my knee, I had a little tantrum back at home. I was feeling rather sorry for myself, quite hard-done by and blurted out to Roman, my ever patient partner in life, “I don’t even play volleyball!” As if I would feel much better had I injured myself doing something that I participated in all the time. Would I have felt differently if I had been inadvertently kicked in the knee during a boxing class, or if I had wiped out attempting a daring box jump in a small group training class? I mean, heck, I made it through the gruelling training regimen for Tough Mudder when there were literally dozens of ways to get hurt. Yet, in reality, it was an injury that resulted from a sport that I had tried just for fun and to help raise a little money for a good cause. It could have happened to anybody.
The day after that fateful twist of my knee, I hobbled off to the chiropractor to confirm what I already suspected; that I did, indeed, have a sprained knee. I was told to ice my knee every few hours and stop my usual physical activities until the knee had a chance to heal. In other words – rest. How lovely. Rest. So why did this one word, which normally conjures up pleasing images of reclining, lounging, napping, and basically draping one’s body over every available piece of furniture for hours on end, send me into an emotional tailspin?
Once the pouting, sulking and moping subsided, I decided to take stock. Why did I have such a powerful emotional response to what was, in the scheme of things, just a minor blip on the radar? I didn’t have a terribly severe sprain, but it was enough to sideline me from the things that I loved to do, for at least a little while. What was so important about being involved in the active lifestyle that I had worked relentlessly to cultivate? The answer became clear – my life had lost its former balance. I needed to rejig the scales in order to get through this recovery period. In other words, I needed to find the upside of downtime. I needed to acknowledge all the positives that had flowed from a negative experience. I started to make a list, a list which continues to grow as the days go by:
- I now have indisputable proof that exercise and the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle are non-negotiables. Life is just a whole lot better with wellness at the forefront. The lack thereof, is worse than an injury.
- I know for sure that I have many wonderful people in my life because of item #1. Without them, I feel like I’m missing limbs. Their support and friendship sustain me.
- With fewer commitments, I created more time to spend with my elderly parents during the week following my sprain. This was a welcome change, as I had originally planned to spend the final week of my summer holidays tackling as many activities as possible before the launch of another school year. Instead, I met my folks for a leisurely mid-week breakfast, escorted them to a couple of favourite shops, drove Mom home from the hair salon, enjoyed ice-cream with the two of them on a bench, and simply had more time to hang out and chat. For the first time too, I kept pace with my Mom as she walked with her rollator, never feeling like I was going too fast. My slower pace was just right.
- I’m learning how to overcome my tendency to restlessly relax. I admit it, when I’m “relaxing”, I usually have one eye scanning my surroundings for something else to do. You can’t leap up every few minutes when you’ve got an ice pack positioned just so, and your leg propped up comfortably on a pillow. The battle is not yet won, but I am learning to resist those urges to flit from one activity to the next.
- You can’t read a great book if you’re perpetually on the move. Suffice it to say, I’ve done a lot of reading recently.
- As difficult as it has been to miss out on all my favourite activities, it’s good to know that they will still be there for me when I’m ready to return to them. My situation is temporary, not permanent. I’m so very thankful for that.
- I learned how to remove cat pee from a litter box in order to provide the veterinarian with a urine sample. Really. One day, I may write about it.
- Maintaining a sense of humour is everything. I’m glad that mine is still intact.
As I mentioned earlier, this list continues to grow and I have undoubtedly left out many valuable observations that I will kick myself for later. Speaking of which, I need to get back to resting, icing and healing my knee, so that I can resume all the power walking, lunges, squats, dipping birds, stair runs, boxer shuffles, and yes, kicking, that I have enjoyed so very much.
Well, maybe not the dipping birds.
By Barbara Reade